Desmond Manderson's Argument For The Legality Of Same-Sex Marriage

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Register to read the introduction… Desmond Manderson’s first argument for the legality of same-sex marriage is the “Armenian argument”: both same-sex marriages and marriages between Armenians do not occur in Shakespeare’s works, yet it does not necessarily follow that 2 there is a prohibition against them (485). Manderson argues that marriage ultimately represents a fundamental need to sacrifice the self, to put faith in another human being, and to forge the relationships that the very social order stands upon (498). The faith necessary for such relationships is not bound by gender; the absence of same-sex marriage in Shakespeare …show more content…
He calls instead for the formation of autonomous homosexual expressions of
“interpersonal commitment and faith” rather than their integration within a heterosexual institution (511). Though these arguments rely on Shakespeare to answer a question pertaining to law, they also rely on Shakespeare to discuss a specific Canadian concern regarding the issue of same-sex marriage.
In Shakespeare’s time, homosexuality was conceptualized in a radically different way than in contemporary thought. In the twentieth century, the gay pride movement, the influence of feminism and the increasing secularization of society, among other factors, all radically changed what is deemed “natural” in terms of sexuality. Such changes have indeed taken place in a Canada, as is evident with current debates regarding same-sex marriage. This is apparent in
“Love on Trial”, a particularly Canadian adaptation of Shakespeare, most specifically with its genesis in the case of Halpern v. Attorney General of Canada and more generally with the reception it received. Taking place in Montreal, and specifically, the audience at McGill 3
University, the case garnered both interest and sympathy for the cause of same-sex
…show more content…
Though both Manderson and Yachnin, to differing degrees, appropriate the text of Shakespeare for contemporary Canadian concerns, their arguments rest on the authority conferred on Shakespeare’s primary texts.
Both Yachnin and Manderson adapt the writing of Shakespeare to argue for or against same-sex marriage; as Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier suggest, “adaptation… appropriates
Shakespeare’s culturally dominant position to perform a wide range of contradictory ideological functions” (14-5). Thus the “cultural work” that this adaptation is performing is one of legitimizing same-sex marriage in the case of Manderson, and legitimizing homosexual experience in the case of Yachnin, through the invocation of the authority of Shakespeare. And yet his authority is recognized to be ever changing and subject to interpretation. Neither Sonnet
XX nor The Winter’s Tale contain commentaries on same-sex marriage; Yachnin and Manderson must rework Shakespeare to speak to current concerns in Canadian society within the context of the university. This relationship to Shakespeare acknowledges the need to reassess

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